Love FoCo, even in foul weather!
Spring in FoCo
Today is a gorgeous day in Fort Collins. The birds I remember from ages ago are calling all over the neighborhood (they've been silent for the past few months). But last week there was a blizzard that knocked the power out at the brewery in the morning...
...and sent us searching around Old Town for wifi and some active electrical plugs. Here's what we found:
Many thanks to those of you who managed to find your way out far enough to join us for a #freshtastycraftbeer in the taproom that afternoon. [And many thanks to the Downtown ARTery for letting us steal some power that morning!]
Love FoCo, even in foul weather!
Shooting star effects courtesy of Ma Nature.
All 3 of y’all who read this blog (hi, Mom!) know that we attended last year’s Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines festival in Vail as consumers. We had a blast (excellent time, file under“market research”) and were pretty psyched to come back this year and pour a few beers. There’s a lot of the weekend I didn’t capture, some awesome seminars that our team attended, a cigar-and-beer-pairing that I missed (alas), and a ton of fun craft beer folk.
I think this festival was started, back in the day, because some now-revered craft brewers wanted to get together in the CO mountains and hang out (and a wise choice that was, because HELLO, scenerygoodbeergoodpeople). I’m pretty sure several of them weren’t in attendance this year, but for those who were – and for all the brewers who’ve come on the scene since then who were here, many thanks for the stellar idea and gathering!
When this is what you see on the drive and out your porch door the first morning,
how can there be anything wrong with the weekend?
Plus, where else but on the way up that canyon are you going to find a school with a mascot like this?
Saw this sign in Vail Village. All listed in the correct order.
Friday we did some teambuilding.
That's what the kids are calling it these days.
Titus & Luke tried their best to teach some of us some dart technique. Please weigh in on our teachability:
Friday night we had BEERTOSHARE, in which we so firmly believe that I think it's a program we need to get on. Is there a better way to gather than over a large-format bottle of great craft beer?
I managed to miss the Saturday morning seminars (which I hear included some samples of 2006 Utopias, the last year they did an unblended version of this beer) and hearing from our friend Neil Fisher of Weldwerks empaneled alongside giants from Sam Adams & Lagunitas (woot woot!), and a by-all-accounts impressive presentation on human's beer-sensing anatomy in The Science Behind Flavor by Nicole Garneau. I missed these because I was running back to FoCo for a meeting -- during which trip I had cause to be grateful I don't make the Saturday-morning drive west on I-70, ever. (Saw some cool decorated-by-the-elements trees and a great sunrise, tho'.)
[Speaking of FoCo, huge gracias to these folks for holding down The Fort while so many of us were away!]
A couple of notes about the actual tasting event at Big Beers -- to be in the festival, a beer must either be over 7% ABV (big), a Belgian style (Belgian, natch), a barleywine (by definition big?), or an experimental beer. It makes the commercial tasting quite an experience – a ton of beers I hadn’t tried before and the ability to talk with people integral to the companies that made each beer (often the brewers themselves) makes this festival a standout. And then there are just the fun folks you bump into (almost all of whom know a ton about beer – it’s an education to wander around this place). *If you're after extensive reviews & beer-tasting notes, stop reading here and go on over to one of the real beer reporters' blogs or articles. I got some good tasting advice from a few of them, including Jonathan Shikes of Westword, who's likely to have a column on it in a minute here. Though I missed him I'd be shocked if Tristan Chan of porchdrinking.com was not there. Focus on the Beer also had a camera or two there. *
Such a high to be around folks who are brewing and showcasing great beers and who love what they do.
Now, back to the (great) grind. But with happy memories of a weekend well spent!
Thanksgiving Thankful Notes 2015
For those of you who visited our taproom during November, you likely saw the slips of paper out on the counter on which folks could write anything for which they were thankful. I had grand designs of keeping them organized and reporting them all chronologically here. For those of you familiar with the state of my desk, you’ll know at once that that was way too lofty an ambition. So here, in no particular order, are this year’s Thanksgiving Thankful Notes. I hope I haven’t lost any (and only 2 were censored) – if I find more floating about the desk top in the next few days, I’ll add them in.
Thanks to all of you who have stopped in to try a beer or two and to say hello – and for those of you who left these notes this month.
Cheers, and happy Thanksgiving!
I'm thankful for...
After seeing the news of the past 12 hours I am, as Mr. Rogers' mother apparently urged, looking for the helpers. It's fortuitous, then, that Tim and I got to visit 2 of them in action this week when we finally ate at the FoCo Cafe. If you've not yet been there, rectify that! They are open for lunch every day but Sunday (see hours & location below). You may go the first time to support its mission, but you'll most likely return for the food and the ambience -- all three are really wonderful.
Here's the FoCo Cafe's mission statement:
Building community by providing nutritious and delicious meals to the people of Fort Collins regardless of their ability to pay while using local, organic, and sustainably grown ingredients.
And here's how it works:
We knew of the goals of this place long before it opened, as our paths, like those of so many others in Fort Collins and beyond, had crossed those of Kathleen & Jeff Baumgardner, who are the driving forces behind the cafe and two of the world's best-hearted people. If you're looking for the helpers to give your heart hope again, these two are some stellar examples. Taproom regulars might also remember that Abby's and Claire's charity of choice during our anniversary last May was the FoCo Cafe -- they raised (and many of you contributed!) money for and built a few of the planter boxes at the cafe with some help from Uncle Andy. So the cafe has been on our radars for a while. Despite its having been open since last Thanksgiving, though, Tim and I still hadn't made it there during official hours.
Among the FoCo Cafe's values is this: "participating in a community nourishes the soul." AMEN.
Whether you find your community here at this sunlit lunch spot, taking a hike with friends, volunteering at your kid's school, at a city council meeting, tailgating, or around your family table, we hope your soul is nourished today and every day. Thanks for letting us be a part of your community and for being a part of ours.
The FoCo Cafe is located at 225 Maple Street, just west of Mason,
and is open Mon.-Sat., 11am - 2pm.
It is spotless and welcoming, full of windows, good food, and good people.
Please. How can you not love a place that has these windchimes?
You wouldn't know it from media reports, but the week is barely about medals. (Which is a good thing, seeing as how we won none!)
Loads of you likely have experienced the Great American Beer Festival in Denver and have your own impressions and memories of the hoopla. Here are some of ours. (Page down if you want to skip to the pictures.)
People seem to begin flying in for beercations the weekend before the festival and some spend some quality time visiting breweries up here in FoCo. This was a blast (photoless, however) -- meeting brewers and craft beer lovers from all over the country -- and some from further afield (ahem, Carolina & Leo) -- is a joy. Goofy to say, but if you haven't felt that craft beer joy yet, I recommend sinking your life's work & savings into opening a craft brewery and experiencing how rejuvenated and elated and connected a week like this one makes you feel. Folks traveling and gathering to share a love of craft is awesome.
We started our Denver days with a pairing of small plates with LoHi SteakBar on Tuesday night.
We might have eaten twice our body weights. But can you blame us? Look at it.
Here was the conference that went on at the end of the bar when we got there -- between the staff who put on this amazing dinner every night, the owner, and his son.
How can you not love a restaurant that prints this?
Eat local, people!
We hopped around The Highlands a bit and after a beer at Old Major we made Linsey carry the keg home (the awesome bar manager there was strapped for space as he'd stocked up beer for the week -- we like that kind of full fridge and kicked-keg-filled hallway).
Thursday & Friday we had awesome brunch pairings at The Lobby (and got to crash a fellow's bachelor party,which he was having with some H&D).
Throughout the week we got to visit great craft beer spots with fantastic food, and all were filled with folks celebrating this Week of Craft Beer in Denver. Too cool! It was crazy awesome to see our beer pouring at some of the places we've admired for their craft lineup for forever. Huge thanks to those Denver bars who were willing to pour some H&D during GABF week!
We were a little gawker-ish in the Big City:
.Cool to run into a couple of Weldwerks Brewing fellows on the walk downtown
The session opens each day with a bagpipe procession from the "opening gates" -- very cool!
Here they were coming by the booth a few minutes later:
The GABF sessions were a scene. I'm a bit low on the people-watching photos, but here you go for a few:
The Colorado State Legislature brews 2 beers (one by the House, one by the Senate) and if you visit the Colorado Brewers' Guild booth, y'all can sample each, meet a rep or two, and vote on which one you prefer. I voted with the House this year, but I believe the Senate beer won. Both were great! Kudos to Cannonball Creek Brewing Company & Big Choice Brewing for brewing with these cats.
Fair warning that y'all want to empty your bladders before you enter GABF.
(And about time that this is the ratio at the restroom lines in a public place, am I right, ladies?)
We got to pour in the "Meet the Brewer" section (by lottery) and were psyched to staff our booth for all 4 sessions. Here are Linsey & Titus holding down the fort, and Chad, Tim & Luke putting in some hard time.
We might have been a bit tired between the 2 Saturday sessions.
"Who's the creepy family passed out behind the palm fronds?"
This place was an oasis. You could step out of the fluorescent lighting and massive white-noise-din of the exhibition hall into this sanctuary of natural sunlight & relative silence. One woman who walked out with us said, "Oh my gosh, I feel like I just walked out of prison!"
Yes, there was the bottling and submission of beers for judging weeks and weeks before (and yes, I should know the actual date! Alas.). In our case, that involved submitting the freshest batches of beer we had and sending them off with several other FoCo breweries' submissions in Snowball (Snowbank's delivery van -- many thanks to them for delivering!). Luke then delivered kegs for pouring samples a couple of weeks ago. We sat through the awards ceremony crossing fingers during our own categories (to no avail!) but also being so psyched that so many friends and acquaintances throughout the industry took home some hardware for their hard work, and celebrating the fact that so many states were represented in the medals. The craft revolution is well and truly upon us and folks all over the U.S. are making great beer!
Here's how sad we were to head back to the last 2 sessions medal-less:
With not-much-sleep and loads of standing-on-concrete, we were pretty happy to return to our "normal" lives up here in FoCo. But we wouldn't trade the week for anything.
It's loud, long, and a lot o' concrete-standing. But it's full of awesome people & beer!
Cheers to all those who love and support craft beer,
whether by making it, serving it, or drinking it.
How great it is to have a festival together
celebrating all of that!
I’m behind in the life of H&D. (Actually, we can shorten that to just: I am behind in life.) But rather than catch up by starting with this weekend, let’s go back to last week. We got to take a (free!) bike tour with Beer & Bike Tours of Fort Collins which included a jaunt out country roads to a farm a few miles east of Horse & Dragon. There we recreated this picture with barley farmer Greg Walker, maltster Chris Schooley (of Troubador Maltings), and brewer Linsey Cornish (of Horse & Dragon Brewing Company – woot, woot!). The first was taken shortly after the field had been planted last spring, and the second was last Wednesday.
We loved the field-side lecture.
We rode from there to Troubador and Chris gave us the mile-high overview on the malting process (when you get to take this tour, ask him about the heating unit).
No better way to spend a Wednesday afternoon. Whatever you call it – acres to ales, grain to glass, field to foam – we’re happy it happens and glad to be a part of the chain. Three cheers for growing, malting, brewing, and drinking! And, o’ course, for biking betwixt and between them all.
It’s possible visitors appreciate the amazingly tasty water of Fort Collins more than those of us who live here do, but every now and then, when you’ve worked up a powerful thirst in one way or another, don’t you just dig on a glass of water straight from the tap? We are grateful for it every single day. (It’s not too shabby brewed into beer, either, as 16 breweries and counting -- and a bunch of us who enjoy their product -- can attest.)
If you’re a resident of FoCo, you can sign up for a free, full-day guided tour of the Poudre River watershed. The City of Fort Collins Utilities group runs 2 of these tours each summer. (The second one for this summer is currently full, but if you follow Utilities on Facebook, you’ll see the announcement for signups next spring and we vote you go!)
TimCo and I went yesterday, and it was startlingly beautiful and educational. Presenters were excellent – in addition to having it brought home that we're glad typhoid outbreaks are less common now than in days of yore, we learned a lot about the history of settlement and water usage in the Poudre Canyon, how the health of rivers is measured and monitored, and why we are so lucky to have this close-to-pristine water source (this was a point reiterated by every presenter).
Here’s the day in photos.
Journeyed up the canyon along this beautiful, wild thing while hearing from Clyde about the history of water use/rights/work on the Cache la Poudre River.
...and were greeted by this guy:
(We might have taken a few photos of him:)
(...and of ourselves:)
There were cool and informative mini-lectures (by water, bug, and tree specialists Clyde, Alicia, and Hallie -- I'm pretty sure they were things like irrigation management and infrastructure and cold-water macroinvertebrate and sub-alpine forestry experts, but hopefully "water, bug & tree specialists" works when reviewing over a #freshtastycraftbeer).
We explored these topics:
I was slightly hung-up on the bounty of flowers in the natural garden up there, including the amazing Colorado state flower, the Rocky Mountain Columbine.
We broke for lunch (provided by the City group). Here was our view of runoff in action. Yeah, yeah, Ma Nature, whatcha' got for me today?
...and had lunch to this soundtrack. Not bad.
I ate sitting next to this thing, which I'm pretty sure is producing a grain that can be malted. Just saying.
On the way past Mishawaka, we saw these guys from Mountain Whitewater Descents. [Shameless commercial plug: we sure hope they are stopping for a #PicnicRockPaleAle at Paddler's Pub when they're done on the river!]
Amen to a fantastic clean water source, and to public lands which we can all explore (with care, please! We're all drinking that stuff!)!
(Big thanks to the City of Fort Collins Utilities team -- and particularly to our emcee, Lucas, for a great day!)
Y’all all probably visited your state capitol when you were in the 5th grade or so. If you haven’t gone back since, I highly recommend it.
Yesterday TimCo and I got to participate in the Colorado Brewers Guild’s “Hill Climb” to visit our legislators. It taught us a good deal about what these people are doing on a daily basis (and believe me, getting through the daily paperwork alone it makes starting up a biz seem like eating cupcakes). It was a day that was impressive, entertaining, and educational.
We were under the guidance of Laura Long & Jeff Weist (of Weist Capitol Group), who work with the CBG and who had set up an agenda that allowed us to meet with specific legislators from our respective areas of the state. Despite the lack of politics below, the biggest eye-opener was that if you send your card in, these people representing you will come right out of meetings to clap eyes on you! Colorado: where politicians still work for the people.
The group represented breweries from all over the danged place and it was terrific to put some faces with the great beers we’ve been getting from them up in FoCo.
Here’s the day in pictures.
First off, how can you not be elated to live in a state where this is the view on the way in to the capitol?
TimCo wore his big boy boots. And socks.
Displaying my amazing skillz as a photographer, 2 fairly awful pictures of our awesome participants for the day.
Even if you think you hate politics, you should go up and tour this building. It is incredible in its architecture and decoration. And let's take a second and celebrate the fact that we don't have to polish these miles of (brass?) railings, shall we? Unless you are the person responsible for said polishing, in which case, THANK YOU.
How prescient was this guy? A quick Googling tells me this was painted between 1938-40 (not sure on this; will have to do a tad more digging). "This is a land where life is written in Water... Look to the Green within the Mountain cup look to the Prarie parched for Water lack..."
LOVE OUR STATE where the Governor's rep wears very fine cowboy boots and our lobbyist has snowboots at hand to change out with her awesome heels (because it's sometimes slushy here on the way to the closest brewery).
Happy hour with brewers/legislators @ Lost Highway Brewing Company. Woot woot!
...and a quick visit to El Camino Community Tavern in the Highlands. Get a load. How can you not love this place? Great beer, great food, interesting people, and this list of priorities:
It was still a huge and giddy rush to see the Horse & Dragon tap handle alongside these other great brands at El Camino. Not sure that will ever get old...
We snuck away to Vail’s Big Beers, Belgians, & Barleywines festival this weekend. It was a good time with a load of good beers. (And also, editorial aside here, some more reminders that we are spoiled in FoCo with freshtastycraft beer on at most bars and restaurants – not so in Vail. However, a couple of places we stumbled upon are making an effort. I’m not sure if that was just for this festival weekend, or if it’s a trend that’ll treat us all to a variety of great beers on there in the coming year or two, but I hope the latter!) We attended a couple of seminars, learned a few things, met a bunch of folks, and tried what were, for me, a lot of new malted beverages. If you’re a true beer geek and want to know more than my “I liked this one, that one isn’t my favorite, I’m trying to teach myself about XYZ style” sort of rating system would tell you, I encourage you to read the entries of one of the many beer bloggers and “real” writers who attended, like this guy:
The upshot is that this festival is a great way to sample small amounts of fantastic beers. Breweries really did bring things you don’t normally see at a big ol’ beer festival. I sampled some stuff I loved from breweries in Belgium, California, Massachusetts, and (of course) Colorado. I also missed a wad of them. There are just too many offerings and interesting people with whom to chatear.
If you're able to go a day early and stay a night or two, there are both spontaneous and planned gatherings that are delicious, fun, and maybe even slightly raucous. Of course, since I'm a deficient beer blogger, I didn’t take photos of the beer. Too busy sampling it, I guess. I did get a couple of photos of other aspects of the festival that struck me.
People. Always fascinating. And looky! One of them whom we didn't know before this day was even wearing an H&D shirt. Woot! Also massive bowls of bread available for between sips, and icy portapotties with a snowy backdrop. Advice (that was Tweeted, so if you follow us on Twitter sorry for the repeat): if you’re gonna’ need to go, go early. These babies were going to ice over by 5 pm and the only thing I can think of that’s worse than a portapotty steaming in summer is one with an ice skating rink for a floor in the winter. As well, it’s good to know that even in Vail, people sometimes use an outhouse.
Aside from the people and the beer, here’s a little look at Vail in January.
Many thoughts on the way up there about the engineering feat that is I-70 and its tunnels.
[Despite these signs, we saw neither.]
The mountains are spectacular, even when you can't see the high ranges.
In the event that the mountain scenery needed some augmenting, someone in Vail was on it for the holiday season:
Vail copes (as does, one hopes, any ski town) with a lot of snow. The shoveling and plowing has got to be constant.
There are enormous plow-residue mountains of snow everywhere. I realize this is not an astute observation.
Despite this indication that perhaps in the U.S. mountains, at least, we're still supposed to take personal responsibility for our actions and accidents, there was this sign on the (free) bus. I blanked out the firm's name because I can't stand this message. People! You are deciding of your own free will to go 10,000 feet above sea level, strap one or two planks to your feet, and point yourself downhill. You are going to do this with hundreds of other people who may or may not have any experience. Gravity, in one way or another, will prevail. You are able to assess the risks and decide if you want to assume them...
Here was a guy making Tim jealous:
And there’s plenty of evidence of hearty winter sportspeople – check out these ski tracks coming down the slope, with nary a ski lift in sight.
Our sweet condo was flying a Colorado flag. That’s how we knew we were home. (It also had some amazing pines out front.)
We finished the weekend with a birthday dinner for Luke at Atwater on Gore Creek restaurant – one of the few places we found that pays homage to craft beer and great food.
I loved this restaurant's beer menu. Particularly this section -- what it's all about. Though I realize now that we didn't share a large format craft in a bottle. Shame. We'll have to go back. Alas.
2015 -- WOOT!
We’re so glad to be able to say we opened last year. LAST YEAR! From the grand old age of 8 months, I’d like to say, “WAHOOOO!” It is such a relief to be through initial construction, the long uncertainty about the nuts and bolts of putting the system together and how it would work, and myriad other build-out, brewing, and pre-opening worries. We have enormous empathy for the brewers (and we know a few) who are currently in that planning and building, pre-opening stage. It’s not easy. If you guys need a beer, come on over. So while we have big question to address in 2015 and a lot more decisions to make, and we’ll be even happier when we’re 5 and can look back on being 8 months old with fond memories of (hopefully distant) growing pains, may I just say that for a brewery, life post-opening is far, far more fulfilling on a day-to-day basis than life pre-opening. Which is to say, though of course we tried to relish every moment, January 2015 is surely going to beat the heck out of January 2014.
As to growing pains, there are plenty. We’re still pretty hit-or-miss on anticipating how quickly something will run out (e.g., Vanilla Caramel Double Cream Ale, or XL zip-up hoodies), on when the taproom will need 3 of us behind the bar, and on getting reporting done for all hundred entities that could benefit from it while we’re focused just on those that demand it. We learn something new every single day. We make mistakes. If “real life” is any template, I’m sure the making mistakes part will continue indefinitely, though hopefully we won’t be repeating many.
For 2015, there are some giant question marks. We’re looking at how to get some of our beer a bit further afield. Is this the year to start bottling or canning? How can we structure some deliveries to y’all’s favorite bars and restaurants in Denver, if they’re willing to give us a try, so that you Denverites who have been so good about supporting us in the taproom can try some of our new beers without the drive? How can we compost hop cones and paper towels economically? Who invented liquid soap and why? [Well, okay, that last was a question from The Sure Thing, not from us. But still. A lot of questions to address in 2015.] And then, of course, the fun questions of what beers to brew and when, and the most important one: how to ensure we maintain the awesome tastiness.
On this January 1 though, we’re trying to temporarily ignore all those queries and take a moment to be glad just to be a part of this community, to be meeting some pretty amazing and interesting folks in the taproom and in the trade, and to be grateful we have freshtastycraft beer in our lives. We hope you guys are having the opportunity to do the same.
...is the dragon's wanderings through the world of craft beer. It may be hard to follow. This is best read with a great microbrew at hand!